Virtual vandals on Monday evening disrupted on online Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony organized by Israel’s embassy in Germany by shouting anti-Jewish slogans, displaying photos of Adolf Hitler and pornographic images.
The incident triggered angry responses from officials in both countries and Israel said it may ask police to investigate.
On Monday evening, Israel’s embassy in Berlin co-hosted a Zoom meeting featuring Holocaust survivor Tswi Joseef Herschel. About 20 minutes into Herschel’s lecture, a group of anonymous Zoom users started disrupting his English-language presentation, posting Hitler and porn photos and yelling “anti-Semitic slogans,” according to Israeli Ambassador in Berlin Jeremy Issacharoff.
The event was part of the “Zikaron BaSalon” lecture series in honor of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which started on Monday evening and lasted until Tuesday evening.
Issacharoff described the group as “anti-Israel activists.” It was not immediately clear where they were based.
He said the session was suspended after the interruption. It resumed after a short while, “without the activists and conducted in an appropriate and respectful way,” Issacharoff said.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the incident “an indescribable shame!”
“What an incredible lack of respect toward survivors and toward the memory of the deceased,” he tweeted.
Issacharoff took to Twitter as well to denounce the anti-Semitic incident. “To dishonour the memory of the Holocaust and the dignity of the survivor is beyond shame and disgrace and shows the blatant antisemitic nature of the activists,” he wrote.
After a short break the event was reconvened without the activists and conducted in an appropriate and respectful way. To dishonour the memory of the #Holocaust and the dignity of the survivor is beyond shame and disgrace and shows the blatant antisemitic nature of the activists. pic.twitter.com/t79gXPYkIO
— Jeremy Issacharoff (@JIssacharoff) April 21, 2020
There are no audio or video recordings of the incident, a spokesperson of the embassy told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. It is currently mulling asking police to open an investigation, she added.
Certain forms of anti-Semitic hate speech are illegal in Germany.
The meeting was announced on the Israeli embassy’s Facebook site and was open to the public.
The Israeli embassy did not use the necessary security settings to prevent people from breaking into its Zoom session because it did not expect anyone to interrupt an apolitical event dealing with Holocaust memory, the ambassador said Tuesday.
“For an event like this, it was important to reach out, virtually, to the Jewish community, Israelis and Germans in general,” Issacharoff told The Times of Israel. “In today’s Germany, I’d never thought open disrespect for the Holocaust would be possible. But I guess nothing is holy anymore.”
On Tuesday, the embassy in Berlin organized another virtual memorial event, this time on Facebook Live and password-protected. It was not disrupted.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the increased use of the teleconferences, a rise in so-called “Zoombombing” has been observed.
“In recent weeks, Jewish groups around the world have been harassed in Zoombombing incidents,” a report by the Anti-Defamation League issued earlier this month stated.
“Jewish schools, synagogues, nonprofit organizations, and cultural institutions have been targeted by antisemitic language and images specifically intended to offend and intimidate Jewish audiences.”
Herschel was born in 1942 in the German-occupied Netherlands. His parents were murdered in Sobobir, and he was survived the Holocaust with the help of a Christian family that took him in.